If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bushman Gets Paved!

I gave him a wry look.  I cocked an eyebrow at him, he cocked his back.  I waited for an answer to my question.
He looked a bit disheveled standing there in a white t-shirt that had what appeared to be a tomato based stain on the front.  Perhaps the chip had been overloaded with salsa and not all of it had made it to his mouth.  His hair was standing up all over and a three day beard stubble graced his face which was beginning to show the wrinkles of sun and age.  His hair was laced with grey and his chin hair was half white.
It was his eyes that made me stand there longer than I should have.  There was no reason for me to take advice from a guy like this.. but those eyes.  They sparkled, they were alive, the window to his soul was wide open and all I had to do was ask and he would tell.  No lies, no gimmicks and certainly no false hope.
"You can do it, it will be slow and you will take longer than usual to arise from your slumber tomorrow morning but yes you can and I presume you will", he said.
That was all I needed to hear. 
I wiped the toothpaste splatter from the bathroom mirror, said good bye to the chap and headed outside to start my brick paver patio.
Hey remember me?
One of my pipe dreams has finally become a reality.  With much sweat, blood and an injection of cash it is done! 

It seemed like a long time ago when I started digging under the patio.  Then the propane line thing and having to move the tank and all that jive.  Here is a reminder of what I started with.
An area about 10x12 and 3 feet deep of soil that had to be pick axed from its place and carried by wheelbarrow to the edge of the yard.
So lets get down to business shall we?  My first order of business was to excavate (again) for the pavers.  I needed to get about 6 inches of gravel under the pavers and an inch of sand.  This helps them to drain water and not heave when the ground freezes.  This was an awful job and I spent 7 hours on Friday doing nothing but digging and then filling it back in with gravel.
Sometimes doing it the right way really sucks!  Especially when your not as young as you used to be.
I went to bed that night at about 7:45.  I awoke the next morning and started early.
The first order of business was to compact the gravel and then lay out my screed guides.  The important thing when putting in your base is to take your time and get it as close to perfect as possible.  I have a small laser level that I set up right under the sill plate on the door going into the garage.  This allowed me to shoot a "laser beam"  (Austin Powers reference) to the outside perimeter of the patio.  Using a measuring stick I was able to determine the top of the gravel layer.  The depth of the brick and one inch of sand will lay on top of the gravel layer so it needs to be about 4 inches below the laser beam.

Then I take my screed guides (3/4 inch galvanized pipe) and place it on top of the compacted gravel.  Adjusting it up or down to match the laser.

The bricks will lay right on top of the pipe.  Of course the pipe will be removed before the bricks get placed but you can set a brick on top of the pipe, shoot your laser or string level out and make sure it hits right at the top of the brick.  Set your pipes no more than 4 feet apart so you can use a level to make them match.  You need to accommodate for drainage as well.  This patio is one inch higher on the wall side and also tapers away from the house.  I use one inch of grade for every ten feet when I lay pavers.  So once you have your pipes set up you can fill in between them with sand and tamp it with a hand tamp.  You don't need to tamp it really hard just give it a good pat.  It should only be an inch or so deep so there isn't much room for compaction.  Don't tamp on the pipes to hard because you don't want them to move.

Once tamped you screed it with a 2x4.  Pulling the excess sand towards you.  Go slow and take your time.  There are always a few rocks or clay chunks in the sand and it will leave furrows in the sand.  Just pick them out, toss a handful of sand back in the hole and rescreed it.

Pull up the first pipe and move it to the other side and repeat.  Now you can just use the four foot level to get your pipe to match the one that is still laying in the sand.
Of course the space where the pipe was will need to be filled in with sand before you pave.  I just use a small bucket and when I get to that spot I grab a handful of sand and fill it in as I go.
Once the patio is all screeded you can lay out your borders.  You don't have to have this but I like the way it looks.  This one is called a soldier course (side to side).  If you lay them the other way (end to end) it is called a sailor course.  In the end it is just a border and you can make your own up if you want to.  Just make sure you measure it out and get it square to the house.

Then you start laying bricks.  It makes good sense to start at the most visible point and also the truest point.  I know the house foundation is true.  My wall and deck posts may not be perfectly square so I wouldn't want to start there.  I had to lay the sidewalk part first so I could get to the house side.

Just keep laying bricks until your finished.  I went with a herringbone pattern which meant I had a lot of cuts to make but it was worth it.
I use this saw to cut them.  It is a metal cutting chop box that I swapped out the metal cutting blade for a diamond tipped brick blade.  The blade was more expensive then the saw!  rental stores carry the fancy ones that use water and have a sliding table but I get by just fine with this one.  A bit dusty but it works.

When all the bricks are in and all the cuts are made you can lay a chunk of plywood down and smack it with the hand tamp.  Moving it all over the patio until you have tamped the entire thing.  This seats the pavers and also flattens them out relative to each other.  Sweep joint sand in the cracks and your pretty much done.
When your all done with that you will have something that looks like this.  Gunner loves the nice cool brick and of course Remmi just loves jumping up and down on the wall.

The new lawn will come right up to the edge of the patio now.  I have the plywood down just to help with the dirt on the dogs feet when they go in and out.  I still need to sweep the joint sand in and buy some brick edging to hold the edges of the patio in place.

It was a heck of a project but now it's almost done.  I still have to build the bar!

I hope you enjoyed my little tutorial. 
Now what can I get into?


  1. nomas!!!!! lets just keep it at this for the rest of this summner!!!!

  2. Oh, I don't know, but I would think that if you cock an eyebrow and cock a back, you're probably doing it wrong.
    But, that's just me. :-)

  3. Reminds me of an old joke (what doesn't?).
    I'll give you the short version.
    "Did you hear about the kid who was born without eyelids?"
    "Oh my goodness! What happened?"
    "They used the foreskin from his circumcision to make him eyelids."
    "Wow! Is he okay?"
    "Well, sure. He's just a little cockeyed."

  4. Great job. We have always had someone else do paving for us in the past as hubby wasn't confident to do it

  5. WOW - really, WOW - I am totally awed with how this project turned out, Bushman.

    And...even more awed with how you started this post - you are not only gifted with your hands, but with your words...that opening story really was visual, and moving on many levels.

    You are one inspiring man - my, hat's off to you (yes, my Makita ball cap, which I wear when wielding my hammer has been popped and a nod is being sent your way)

    Cheers, Jenny


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